Health Affairs paper highlights AIR Louisville partnerships and policy

Philanthropist Christy Brown and Mayor Greg Fischer are among the authors of new research paper published today by the journal Health Affairs that examines the policy and partnership elements of AIR Louisville.
In the April issue, “AIR Louisville: Addressing Asthma with Technology, Crowdsourcing, Cross-Sector Collaboration and Policy” explains how partnerships were built and sustained during the three-year project. In addition to helping individuals get control of their asthma symptoms, data from the project helped doctors understand triggers and gave city leaders a fresh perspective on how to reduce the burden of asthma.

“Cities exist to provide citizens the opportunity to reach their full human potential — no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or ZIP code”, said Fischer. “No city can do this alone, which is why we’re committed to working with citizens, businesses, and nonprofits to undertake innovative projects like AIR Louisville that can positively impact the lives of citizens.”

Brown’s and Fischer’s contributions to the project were recognized along with the many community partners that supported the asthma project. The AIR Louisville Collaborative credited in the research paper included Andrew Renda, Humana, Jim Sublett, MD, Family Allergy and Asthma, Grace Simrall, Louisville Metro, and Sarah Moyer, MD, Louisville Metro Health Department as well as 16 other contributors. This group of individuals represents the broad network of local partners that made AIR Louisville possible. Veronica Combs, Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil, and Meredith Barrett, Propeller Health, were the main authors of the paper.

“The City’s Department of Civic Innovation was a vital partner in this work that brought together employers, doctors, advocacy groups, philanthropists and citizens to focus on asthma,” Combs said. “Convening these diverse groups encourage fresh partnerships and new ideas about how to use data to improve quality of life.”

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this digital health project was the first time that a city was used as the organizing principle for a digital health project. The AIR Louisville team recruited 1,100 participants and 11 community partners – including 7 employers. During the three-year project, the team collected 250,000 data points about rescue inhaler use. Each participant used a sensor that added a time and location stamp to the medication use. This allowed the project team to add more than 1 million environmental data points to the analysis.

The project’s final report identified neighborhoods with the highest asthma risk. The team also used the findings to recommend new city policies during the ongoing update of Louisville’s Comprehensive Plan. One recommendation was to increase the tree replacement requirement when trees are cut down during land development. Another suggestion was to designate truck routes through the city to protect residential areas from traffic pollution.
The Institute received a $28,000 grant from the city’s Department of Sustainability to plant trees. We will be working with Trees Louisville to select a location that has a high risk for asthma attacks as well as low tree canopy. The planting project will be completed later this year.

This analysis highlights the places in Jefferson County that have multiple environmental challenges: high heat, flooding issues, and low tree canopy. Planting more trees can address all of these issues.

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